Why Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Are Finding Civilian Reentry Harder

By Knickerbocker, Brad | The Christian Science Monitor, December 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

Why Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Are Finding Civilian Reentry Harder


Knickerbocker, Brad, The Christian Science Monitor


A Pew study finds that military veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 are surviving more serious injuries - another one of the reasons civilian reentry is so difficult.

The American military has been at constant war for more than 10 years. Thousands of soldiers, marines, and other servicemembers have been killed; tens of thousands have been wounded. Many more are dealing with post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.

For those who served in uniform and are now back home, reentry into civilian life has not always been easy, and a new report details the degree of difficulty.

The Pew Research Center reported Thursday that 27 percent of all military veterans say the time following their release from active duty was difficult for them. Among those who served since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, that portion swells to 44 percent - a higher rate than for those who served in Vietnam, Korea, or World War II.

Overall, 32 percent of all military vets say their military experience was "emotionally traumatic or distressing" - a proportion that increases to 43 percent among those who served since 9/11, Pew found.

One reason for that difference is the nature of military service over the past decade: 16 percent of post-9/11 vets experienced a serious injury, significantly more than the 10 percent of vets overall who were seriously injured. (Pew notes that servicemembers with serious injuries are more likely to survive today than in previous wars - a trend that began in Korea with the use of helicopters to bring the wounded to more advanced field hospitals.)

Not surprisingly, those who served in a combat zone and those who knew someone who was killed or injured in combat faced steeper odds of an easy reentry.

What did surprise Pew researchers was finding that post-9/11 vets who were married while in service had a harder time readjusting to civilian life.

"At first glance, this finding seems counterintuitive," the Pew report states. "Shouldn't a spouse be a source of comfort and support for a discharged veteran? Other studies of the general population have shown that marriage is associated with a number of benefits, including better health and higher overall satisfaction with life."

"In fact, the answer to another survey question points to a likely explanation.

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